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Managing Stress and Depression Around the Holidays


The holiday season can be a time of joy, but it’s also common for mental health struggles like stress, depression and anxiety to be intensified. The season is full of potential triggers and stressors. In addition to this, feelings of grief, loneliness, and disappointment are likely to surface at this time of the year.

 

While we may often feel pressure to keep our spirits up and a smile on our faces during the holidays — sometimes this pressure can amplify existing emotional struggles and make them worse. It’s important to recognize and be accepting of various emotions throughout this season.


Keep Up Your Self-Care Routines

Maintaining your self-care during the holiday season is an important piece of navigating the stress of this time of year. It's easy to let time off work and school impact your daily routines, which can often get you out of the habit of taking care of yourself. 

  • Sustain what you can of your daily routine

  • Prioritize getting enough sleep

  • Eat nutritious dense food to keep your body strong

  • Stay physically active

  • Protect regularly scheduled self-care time


Find a way to fit holiday obligations into your routines instead of letting them take over your life.


Make Small Adjustments

The holiday season can be filled with big plans, changes, and stressors, so put some attention on the little things that can help you relax.

  • Take a Break from Technology

  • Listen to your Favorite Music

  • Take a Walk

  • Look for Laughter

  • Reach Out to Your Support System

  • Turn Inward – Practice RAIN

 

Lower Expectations

  • The holidays can be long and full of commitments. Make a list of what you expect from yourself, what others expect from you and your responsibilities for the holidays. Get comfortable with the idea that you don’t have to do everything, and everything doesn’t have to be perfect.

  • Accept that you may get sad or lonely, and that’s okay. If you’re coping with mental health concerns, they won’t go away just because of the holidays. Keep up your emotional health habits and apply when possible to your new set of responsibilities.

  • It’s okay to do less. The spirit of the season can sometimes lead people to overcommit their time. When you’re looking at your calendar or to-do list, be fair to yourself. Decide what’s most important to you, or where you most want to go, and allow yourself to say no to other demands on your time.


Accept Imperfection

  • During this time of the year, we often set the bar impossibly high for ourselves and then feel disappointed with unmet expectations. Movies, television, and advertising leads us to think that every event must be picture perfect.

  • Before you start preparing, acknowledge that things may not go exactly as planned. Try to see the fun that can happen when the spontaneous happens.


Don’t Lose Sight of What Really Matters

The holidays can get hectic. When overwhelm and reactivity kick in, return to the things that are most important to you. In moments of frustration, ask yourself "Does this impact what matters most to me? Can I use this moment of frustration as an opportunity to reflect? Can I return to gratitude?"


Set Aside Differences

  • As families gather during this season it can be hard to avoid friends and relatives that you don’t always agree with.

  • Let go of hate, anger, and differences.

  • Agree to disagree.

  • Remind yourself of the reasons you love the people in your life.

Respond with Compassion

You can’t change how others act during the stresses of the holiday season, but you can change how you respond to situations. Listen. Let them communicate their thoughts and hear their concerns. Remember that this time can be difficult for everyone, and we each have our own struggles that may or may not be obvious on the outside.


Practice Compassion Using RAIN:

  • R - Recognize the pain of the Other who is suffering, What must it be like to that person?

  • A - Allow for whatever comes up to be felt.

  • I - Investigate - How must that feel? 

  • N - Nurture by asking: What might they need? How may I offer understanding?  Am I listening? Am I respecting?  What kindness might I offer?

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